Monthly Archives: March 2017

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Working Group: March Report

Overview

The majority of this Core Working Group meeting focused on discussions around the development and implementation of internships for graduate students. We had an alumna of the Graduate Center’s Political Science MA Program join our Core Working Group, which added greatly to our conversations about creating networks connecting alums to the GC.

Response to Curricular Review and Innovations from the Provost

The meeting began with an overview of the Provost-led discussion from last week’s meeting of the Steering Committee. Core Working Group members were encouraged to respond to the takeaways.

One committee member noted that there’s undoubtedly resistance to the proposed changes, likely because individual writing is being valued more than collaborative work. There is also resistance to on the job training being done outside of the classroom. Another committee member expressed a belief that the most effective tool for implementing new policies is changing opinions. Perhaps the best thing to do now is to begin acting upon our ideas. We need to put the policy into action and provide an example of its implementation in order to gain support from faculty members and students. When ideas stay in the abstract, people can more easily doubt the rigor and benefit of proposed changes.

Discussion about Internships

The third planning theme of our project is partnerships. We want to create more opportunities for students to experience work from a range of fields while still in graduate school, and we want to establish databases and practices for connecting students to both external organizations and alumni.

One idea is to reach out to those students at the GC who’ve already done internships outside of academia.

Another suggestion that interested multiple committee members is to focus on the skills-building perspective of internships. There’s an assumption that internships are usually focused on one task. Many internships and non-academic careers require some basic, ubiquitous skills, such as budgeting, event management, and working collaboratively. These are skills worth learning. Praxis classes have already been working on skill building.

There are opportunities for the Graduate Center to partner with the Social Science Research Council (SSRC). The SSRC is a scholarly environment and already has a structure in place to bring on young people and young staff members. Their graduate interns are often short-term hires, and they are given a range of tasks, not just one thing.

Discussion around Implementation

As the conversation shifted from general ideas about internships to a more strategic discussion about their implementation, the Project Leaders posed a few questions for consideration: What’s the output that we’re looking for? What are we trying to create—a road map, or a list of obstacles? What additional components would the individual programs add?

Members of the Core Working Group agreed that we need to lay out the discussion about the training currently offered by the programs in order to have a better perspective about broader opportunities. For example, there’s currently a name change going on in the Theatre Program. (They are expanding to be called Theatre and Performance.) One committee member thinks that this expansive thinking can be extrapolated and brought to the other programs as a possible way to spin the resistance.

One of our alumni members expressed a contempt for teaching at the CUNY campuses while at the Graduate Center. The alum desired a more collaborative approach to pedagogy. She’s concerned about how much acknowledgement there is in programs about shrinking academic paths. Is there discussion regarding the value of having people with degrees in the world? Best strategies need to be laid out for students.

There was ample discussion about student funding and the possibility of retooling budget allocations. One committee member asked if the institution could afford to buy students out of their teaching fellowships. It doesn’t seem like a huge ask to have 5 or 6 students a year working outside of the building. Some of the constituent CUNY colleges have had to turn away teaching fellows because there is a limit to the number of open classes.

There’s also some opportunity for fellowships within the various project and student centers represented by our various committee members. For example, three different fellowships are offered through the Digital Initiatives, who uses a standard set of procedures: (1) orientation process – politics of institution, (2) shared code of conduct, (3) peer to peer mentoring, (4) self-evaluation / strengths, and (5) identify areas of growth (personal, academic, program). Similar procedures could be employed by other centers. However, it is important to acknowledge that not every office has the same caliber of program. Procedural changes for fellowships will take time. Also, sometimes the richer the caliber of experience is dependent on what management staff and student employees need.

One suggestion that has come up repeatedly is the desire to front-load a WAC (Writing across the Curriculum)-like internship in the second year of doctoral study. Holding off on WAC fellowships until the fifth year curtails students’ professional development.

Moving Forward

At the end of our meeting, we briefly discussed how to deal with our lack of student involvement in this planning grant process. The agreed-upon solution will be to go back to the DSC and ask for another round of recommendations. Students should be assured that the project requires a low level of commitment from them.

The next month will be spent finalizing plans for our May 4 event.

Working Group: March Agenda

During our upcoming meeting of the Core Working Group, we hope to make some substantial headway in our discussions on both alumni data collection and building alumni and employee partnerships. This will be the last discussion-oriented meeting of this project. Our Town Hall event, which we’ve named Post Grad (Center): Engaging Publics with a PhD (see our January meeting report for more details), will be held on May 4. Our final committee meetings in May, June, and July will be used to draft, comment on, and edit a white paper and evaluation plan for implementing project ideas.

Here is the agenda for the upcoming meeting:

Core Working Group Meeting
March 7, 2017

Meeting Agenda:
  1. Summary of January 30th Project Directors’ Meeting
  2. Review of last week’s Steering Committee Meeting conversation
    • New alumni committee members
    • Understanding PhD Career Pathways for Program Improvement
    • Curricular review and innovations from Provost Joy Connolly
    • Planning for the May 4th event
  3. Recommendations and strategies around alumni data collection
    • Streamline communications between programs and administrative offices
    • Metrics for assessing effectiveness of future curricular changes
    • Launch of an alumni mentoring database
  4. Recommendations and strategies around partnerships
    • Best practices for connecting with external organizations
    • Launch of an employer network
  5. Graduate Career Consortium Meeting in Houston, TX, Tuesday through Friday, June 27-30, 2017

Steering Committee: February Report

Overview

The Project Steering Committee’s February meeting addressed feedback from the gathering of Next Gen PhD Project Directors. The meeting also included the Graduate Center’s Provost and a discussion about implementing curricular changes.

Discussion of Takeaways from Project Directors’ Meeting

Our discussion on the takeaways from the Project Directors’ meeting began with committee members identifying potential problems in designing project-based classes. There’s concern that digital projects and assignments organized by a faculty member won’t have the same currency or hold the same weight as independently-produced, individual research. Another committee member expressed that internships aren’t appropriate for students in his program because internships in that particular field aren’t equivalent to graduate-level engagement. Someone else raised the concern that work completed outside of the institution is inherently more difficult for instructors to evaluate.

This, in turn, raised the possibility of assigning someone the task of monitoring standards related to internships. This practice is already implemented in the Clinical Psychology Program. When students enroll in externships, a faculty member is responsible for coordinating the process. The faculty member checks on the appropriateness of the externship by conducting a site visit, talking to the potential supervisor, and creating a contract. Although the overarching process is laid out by the APA, faculty members are directly involved in supervising the process. Additionally, the companies involved benefit from student participation: They can bill for the hours and don’t have to pay the student, which is essentially free labor for them.

There was also some general discussion about how best to facilitate work in a public humanities research lab. The Center for the Humanities already offers some opportunities for students to engage in public humanities, as does the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, although the Segal Center could expand to include more interdisciplinarity. One committee member noted that there is also a public humanities program at work in the city called Humanities New York, which offers potential for future collaboration.

Council of Graduate Schools’ PhD Pathways for Program Improvement

The Council of Graduate Schools has issued an RFP regarding career pathways. The grant would provide funding for the implementation and analysis of surveys to current PhD students and alumni to better understand their career pathways and outcomes. The Graduate Center will be putting together an advisory group, which will be tasked with identifying stakeholders and advising on best strategies to disseminate and use the data collected during the project for program and institutional effectiveness and improvement.

This new project resonates with elements of our current project, especially as it pertains to Humanities students. One important thing to consider will be the difference between incoming and outgoing student expectations and accounting for how these expectations might change.

Discussion with the Provost about Curricular Review and Innovations

The Graduate Center Provost, Joy Connolly, attended our meeting in order to address her office’s current review of Graduate Center curriculum and the possibilities for upcoming innovations.

Some of the takeaways from Dr. Connolly’s talk are as follows:

  • We need more promotion of our activities and participation with the Next Gen PhD to reach potential students
  • We need to build into the current curriculum. We need to create exposure to these ideas in different, existing classes; we need to get faculty to incorporate these ideas.
  • The Provost’s Office will share the results of another curricular reviews conducted by the program Executive Officers, which required them to compare the curricular requirements of the Graduate Center with four other comparable, model institutions.
  • We need to continue to work on incentivizing flexibility.
  • Our biggest challenge will be to invite creative and flexible blue-sky thinking while simultaneously managing costs.

The committee members agreed about the importance of flexibility, especially as it relates to student funding. There was some question as to whether or not there has been a noticeable difference in the career trajectories of students in different funding tiers. Do those with tuition-only funding have to leave earlier? Is that an incentive towards a nonacademic career? One committee member commented that, in his program at least, those PhD students with tuition-only fellowships have proven much more flexible year after year.

One of our alumni committee members commented that during his time at the Graduate Center everyone kept saying that the job market was bad, but no one ever defined non-traditional pathways. Many students might be interested in fellowships that don’t require teaching undergraduate classes.

One of the major concerns regarding internship enrollment is that it has a knock-down effect in faculty teaching units. The current plan is to think through the issue logistically and the find the money. Faculty hires have been slowed, which has impacted multiple programs. Also, the size of the student body is still changing due to fellowship limitations.

Moving Forward

The next project meeting is scheduled for next week. The meeting will bring together the Core Working Group to continue our conversation around partnerships and to finalize some decisions for our May 4 event.